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How to Leverage Social Login (Part 2) – Social Media Best Practices Series

By Jamie Beckland | Posted on July 07, 2011

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This post is part of our social media best practices series, which looks at how to leverage Janrain’s solutions to drive your marketing metrics. See the entire Social Media Best Practices Series here.

Previously in Part 1 of How to Leverage Social Logins, we discussed how to encourage users to register, and how to create an easy process for them to register.

Now, let’s discuss how to use social logins outside of the initial registration process. There are a number of considerations for both your site design, and your user flows.

The Impact of Registration on the Return Experience

Of course, it’s obvious that if you can convince a user to register on your site, they expect to come back. Therefore, it’s important to consider the return experience early in the process of defining your registration process. If a user who has previously logged in, returns to the same experience that a new user sees, they perceive little value in being logged.

But, for most websites, the value of a logged in user is many times a new user. You want them to feel closer to your site from their very first return experience.

The most obvious recommendation is to maintain the user in a pre-authenticated state, and ask them to log in as soon as they return.

twitter login

This type of greeting by name is designed to show the user that the website remembers the individual user, and is ready to showcase a more customized experience if the user chooses to login again.

Acclimating a user to logging into your site during each visit provides a crucial strategic objective: it allows you to build a detailed profile of each user’s behavior over time. This becomes increasingly important as you segment experiences and offers based on projected lifetime customer value.

Other things to consider on the return experience:

  • The welcome back message can be discrete, in the corner; or front-and-center, in a modal overlay or with prime screen real estate.
  • How many times do you want to prompt a user to re-authenticate? It doesn’t have to be just once.
  • Do you want the first prompt to re-authenticate to appear when they first return to your site, or at some other point as they are surfing the site?

Horses for Courses – Account Mapping

Another important consideration is the ability for users to utilize multiple social identities for different purposes. With a highly fragmented social media landscape, it’s important to give users the ability to link multiple networks into your registration system. Janrain offers this functionality through the Account Mapping API.

Account mapping links together multiple social networks around one single user record. It can even be linked to the traditional user profile in your existing user database.

The business objective of this functionality is to build a more complete picture of the individual customer. Linking more identities rounds out the amount of data you have on a user and their social graph.

For users, the incentive is to use different identities for different purposes on your site to align their identity with a specific activity. So, while a user might prefer to log in using their Google identity, they may want to share content to Twitter, or invite their friends from Facebook. Offering the ability to link multiple identities makes that process easier for users.

nasdaq account linking

Consider using a progress bar or other measurement icon to show the user how far along they are in completing their profile, to encourage linking multiple identities.

Be Careful What You Ask For – Progressive Permissioning

Another important area of consideration is which permissions you will request from the user. Do you want to obtain their email address? You must request that permission from them. The same goes for viewing their interests, their friends, or creating a status update on their behalf.

Clearly, you must strike a balance between making it easy for users to become your advocates, and not turning them off by asking for too much access. Ask for too little, and you’re not able to customize their experience. Ask for too much, and they will abandon the login process altogether.

The solution lies in progressive permissioning, which requests additional access permissions from the user when they instigate a new type of activity on your site. So, when a user first registers, you may want to ask them for their email address, but no friend information. Later on, when they start to share content, it makes sense to ask for access to their friend network.

The challenge is to learn what your userbase is comfortable with, and how different permission requests affect conversion. The only way to know for sure is to prepare a series of A/B tests, and track performance of different request buckets.

The opportunities in social login are numerous, which is why marketers must think through its use cases at the beginning of the process. Creating a well-informed framework will drive improvements in registration and business results.

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About the author

Jamie Beckland

Jamie Beckland

VP of Product

Jamie has been delivering custom web solutions for more than 10 years, and built his first social media community in 2004. Prior to Janrain, Jamie led the emerging media practice at White Horse, and has worked as a marketer and technologist with clients including Coca-Cola, Financial Times, Samsung, Wells Fargo, L’Occitane, The Brooking Institution, and many others. He frequently speaks about technology trends and writes for Mashable, Social Media Examiner, iMediaConnection, AdAge, and other publications.

View all posts by Jamie Beckland